Saturday, July 30, 2011

Reading is FUN-damental!

For anyone who is tuning in for part two of To Spray Or Not To Spray, my post about arachnophobia and how I overcame it... 

You're gonna have to wait one more post.  I just have to get this little update in quickly.

Our Family Summer Reading Program is going great!  If you haven't read the original post, you can read it here.

I planned to post when we were half way, but the kids are doing so much reading this summer that we got too far before I'd gotten the post written! I wanted to get this post written before we finished the whole thing!

We are a little over two-thirds of the way finished with filling in our thermometer chart and ahead of our schedule for completing it before the end of the summer!  Yay!

As you can see in the picture on the right, we have recently passed 6500 out of 9000 pages!

I wish I could say that I've contributed more than I have.  I would have loved to have the time to read that my girls have had, but alas, I am the mom, and therefore, I rarely have a chance to sit down.

Hubs and Jabberjaw have each completed a book, and Jabberjaw is working on a second. Bookworm (her name is SO appropriate) has been devouring books all summer, as per usual for her.  

The big surprise is that TeenStar has discovered the joy of reading this summer!  She always thought she didn't like to read, but Bookworm helped her discover that there are books at the library that actually keep her attention and she's finally understanding that you just gotta keep trying until you find a book that interests you. Now I can hardly get her to put her books down!  

Oaks Park here we come!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

To Spray Or Not To Spray...

So... I just killed a spider.  It was a really gross, icky, big, black, creepy, crawly thing. Yuck!  I really hate spiders!  Always have. Worse than having to kill it (all by my li'l ol' self, I might add!) was having to watch it crawl across the ceiling above me until it got in a position where I could kill it with my flip-flop without smacking the ceiling too hard and waking people sleeping above me.  Again, I say... YUCK!

'What's the big deal', you may ask?  'So what', you say?  'People kill spiders all the time', you remark.  Well, it is a big deal to me.  A very  big deal.  And that is because as much as I still hate spiders, I am no longer deathly afraid of them.  I used to be horrified, terrified, and petrified by them.  I had full-blown arachnophobia.  But, I'm proud to say that I faced my fears and have joined the ranks of the great and mighty Spider Slayers!

I used to always have to get my dad or brothers, and later my husband, to come and kill them for me.  I couldn't stand to see them crawl and I was always worried that if I didn't smack 'em right, they would scuttle away and maybe end up crawling on me in my sleep later... ewww!!! Finally my fear had built to a climax and become so debilitating that one day I stood frozen with fear, a can of Raid spider spray in one hand and my toddler cradled in my other arm.  I couldn't move.

The spider was sitting still on a stuffed sofa chair, in a spot where I couldn't get a clear smack at him.  I knew if I didn't get him with a first whack, he would start moving (blech!) and then he would go hide somewhere, waiting until I was fast asleep so he could take his revenge on me.  I resorted to the spray because I knew I had a much better chance of getting him.  The only problem was, I had used the spray on spiders before and was well aware that the bigger spiders didn't die instantly.  And this was a BIG spider!  It's body (not counting the legs) was about the size of a pea.  I knew once I sprayed, it would move and it would probably require a few sprays to actually kill the thing.

I stood there, unable to move, for what seemed like an eternity.  I had to kill it... but if I sprayed it... it would move...  The fear inside me was growing.  I was feeling more and more terrified of this little tiny creature.  I knew I was being completely irrational but I couldn't seem to help myself.  After what seemed like hours, finally my 3-year-old son looked at me and said, "I'll kill it for you, mommy!"  My darling little boy was braver than me!  I felt so silly but I just told him we'd do it together and I let him help me hold the can as we sprayed -- and I freaked.

When it was all over, I knew I had to do whatever it took to overcome this irrational fear so that I didn't end up passing it on to my children. I had taken a Psychology class in college where I'd studied phobias and I knew how people developed them, how the phobia can progress and get worse and worse, and how you could overcome them.

Tune in next time to find out how I used this recalled knowledge to help me overcome my crippling phobia once and for all...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

To Be A Pioneer...

Today is Pioneer Day and we were able to celebrate by attending church in our brand new Forest Grove Stake Center for the very first time this morning!  It is a beautiful building and such a long-awaited blessing to our area.  It's located just down the street from our house and the weather was beautiful today so we walked to church.  It was a lovely way to start the Sabbath.

Our new church building was a long time in coming, as our Stake is already four years old!  We've had many struggles over the years with locating land and getting approval and permits from the city.  It was almost surreal to finally be in the building after all the waiting.

One of the speakers today mentioned how we have modern-day Pioneers in our midst that have lived in the Forest Grove area for decades and forged the way to build up the Church here in Oregon. Their dedication to the Gospel and their years of service are a large part of the reason that the Church has grown so much over the years and led us to the building of this new Stake Center.

In Primary today we sang a song called "To Be A Pioneer".  In the song it says that you don't have push a handcart or travel thousands of miles 'to be a pioneer', you just need to have faith and courage and work hard for a just cause.  I hope I can carry on the tradition of both the original pioneers and the modern-day pioneers in our midst, by standing firm in my beliefs and continuing the work of building up the Lord's Kingdom in my own little corner of the world.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Have Her Cake & Eat It Too!

TeenStar got to learn how to make fondant and decorate a cake with it at her Young Women's activity this week.  She's my little baker and made and frosted the cake that she took to the activity, as well.  She had a lot of fun mixing the fondant (including the food coloring) with her bare hands... which ended up quite green (I wish I'd thought to take a picture of them!).

I wasn't aware, prior to TeenStar enlightening me, that you could even make  fondant from scratch.  I'd only ever seen it, pre-made, in craft stores that sell cake decorating supplies.  It's made by melting marshmallows and mixing it together with A LOT of powdered sugar and food coloring.  After that, you roll it out like cookie dough, cut out shapes with cookie cutters and adhere it to each other with water.  The finishing touch is brushing the whole thing with water to give it a glossy shine.  TeenStar's cake turned out SO cute!

I've never liked the flavor of fondant that I've tried in the past, but this stuff actually tasted pretty good, although it was extremely sweet!!  Best part, of course, was the chocolate cake on the inside!

Mmmm... yummy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Mischief Managed!"

Thank you, Harry Potter.  Thank you, Ron and Hermione.  Thank you Dumbledore and Snape.  And especially-- thank you, J.K. Rowling for all of the years filled with wonderment and surprise.  They have been phenomenal years full of laughter, tears, shock, and amazement.  I don't know what Ms. Rowling has up her sleeve next, but regardless, she has left a legacy for many generations of Harry Potter fans, now and in years to come.

Many people have been saying that the last HP movie is the "End of an Era" and in a way it is, being as there will be no more new Harry Potter books or movies (as least that's what we're being told at this point). But, somehow, it doesn't feel over  to me.  Not because I think J.K. Rowling will change her mind and write a "Harry Potter: The Next Generation" series (although I would be first in line to buy it!).  It's just the fact that Harry Potter will truly  never die.  Voldemort always said that only he could live forever, but Harry's really the one who is immortal.  And thank heaven for that!

I'm so glad that we can always re-enter the Wizarding World through the books and movies.  I'm thrilled that I can read the series again and again and always enjoy it.  I love that the movies are a time capsule of the books, through which we can re-live the stories whenever we feel so inclined.  I'm grateful that all of the main character's actors (excluding the amazing  late Richard Harris) were able to continue through the entire film series.  Their dedication to their characters and the HP series, as a whole, has always been inspiring to me.  I thank them for their devotion.

It took me a few days to get this post written, and in that time, I've already seen the movie twice (I hope to see it at least one more time in theaters, maybe twice more!).  I don't do midnight showings, and usually Bookworm doesn't either, but she made an exception for Harry!  She's been a huge fan of the books since I started reading them to her as a youngster.  She went with a friend and they dressed in costume.  Bookworm has never been one for conformity and although she would have preferred to dress up as Bellatrix LeStrange, she decided to go as a less popular character.  I got her to pose for me in her Lavender Brown costume, before she left.

I, on the other hand, took TeenStar to see it on opening day (to preview the PG-13 rating for Jabberjaw) and the following day we took the whole family (minus Bookworm) to meet up to see it with my mom and brothers & their wives.  

My very favorite thing about this last installment of the movie series is that Severus Snape finally gets his due.  I've known since reading 'The Deathly Hallows' that all of my suspicions were true.  I always knew he was a good guy!  I've always been a HUGE Dumbledore fan and couldn't believe, for one minute, that Dumbledore could be duped, but not Voldemort.  It just never made sense to me.  And I was right. 

Finally... all of the the non-reader movie fans know the truth, as well. Of course, it changes the way you look at him when you go back and read and watch, but thus it is with any good reveal.  It was a good bit of mischief on J.K. Rowlings part, and as Jabberjaw said as we turned off the car in our driveway after returning home from the movie, "Mischief Managed!" 

We all had a good laugh at that!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys

Summertime means Cub Scout Day Camp for Jabberjaw and I went to be leader for the day.  Thankfully, this year the weather cooperated. Last year was super hot so I was grateful for the milder weather this time around.

Although the weather was improved over last year, other conditions were less favorable.  Generally we have our group of boys split up into two smaller groups, making it much easier to deal with them.  This year the camp was overbooked which meant that they didn't have enough Den Sites for us to have two groups.  So... I had the lovely time of dealing with thirteen 8 to 10-year-olds!  I now understand the term 'herding cats'.

Thankfully I had help from two fantastic Youth Leaders who, when I said "Jump", asked "How high?".  I couldn't have survived the day without them.

All in all it was a good day.  The boys had lots of fun building gliders, shooting water rockets, and doing archery, an obstacle course, and games.  The camp was also visited by firefighters who brought along their firetruck, showed the boys all of their fire-fighting gear, and talked about fire safety.  Lots of fun-- but, boy... was I ever exhausted when I got home!


13 Little Monkeys

Steady as she goes!

Tired yet?

Local heroes

Safety first!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thirsty, Anyone?

Jabberjaw (on the left) and a couple of neighborhood friends

Jabberjaw came to me the other day with the question I think all parents dread but anticipate, nonetheless, when the summer sun comes a-peekin' out: "Can I make a lemonade stand?"

He had seen his older siblings each have a crack at it in past years and he was so enthusiastic about having his "day in the sun", how could I deny him?

Honestly, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  He's 10 now, so there wasn't too much I had to do, other than a little guidance and a short but thorough lesson on giving change.   It was a good learning opportunity, not only in counting money but also in how banks work.  I gave him a starter loan so he'd have cashflow to give change at the beginning, and explained to him that he'd have to pay me back before figuring out his profit.  He paid me back the same day, so I didn't charge him any interest.  Smart boy.

He and his buddy across the street got a card table and chairs from their parents garages and set things up at the bottom of the hill right at the entrance to our housing development where they would get more traffic than in front of our house.  We were fresh outta lemonade so we went to plan B:  Kool-Aid.  Unfortunately, I don't think they were as successful as they probably would have been had we been able to do the lemonade.  Jabberjaw said there were several people who stopped by to see what they had, chuckled (or as Jabber put it- "laughed at them"), and drove away.  Poor kid.

Oh well... they did get a few customers and made a few bucks.  Hopefully Jabberjaw got the whole thing out of his system and we are done for the summer.  Hopefully... but probably not.  He's probably going to still wanna make a 'real' lemonade stand.  Of course, my definition of 'real' lemonade, at least as far as what he's allowed to use for his stand, is still Kool-aid.  But he doesn't really know the difference, anyway.  Ignorance is bliss, they say...

Do your kids like to do sales stands in the summer?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Walk For A Good Cause

Just as most people can't imagine 4th of July without BBQ and fireworks... at our house, Independence Day just seems incomplete without getting our fitness on!

It's a family tradition (well... more like 'mom & kids tradition') in our home to start 4th of July off bright and early with a 5k!  I've participated off and on for several years in the local C.A.T. Walk/ Fun Run 5k that is held every July 4th.  C.A.T. stands for Cancer Awareness and Treatment and is an annual fundraising event. 

All of my kids (except for Teen Star, who did a different 5k with me last fall) have now done the C.A.T. Walk with me, this year being Jabberjaw's first time.

Some years we have walked, other's we've run, depending on individual fitness levels (ok... depending on my  current fitness level!).  A few years back I was doing really well with my running and had both Bookworm (who was training for HS Cross Country at the time) and Genius join me in running the whole thing.  This year Genius will be joining the High School Cross Country team in the fall and ran the whole thing alone.  Jabberjaw wanted to run the whole thing, but as my fitness level wasn't quite there this year, he had to settle for run/walking it with me, as I knew he would not be able to keep up with his teenage brother.

Jabberjaw was just happy to be finally old enough to participate in a full, large-scale event.  He has participated in Kid's Dash's before, but this was the first time he got to be with "the big kids" and actually do the full 5k.  He did great, although he started tiring about half way through and walked for quite a ways before I let him run full out about the last 3/4 of a mile or so and meet his brother at the finish line.  I was happy to come in to the finish in just under 50 minutes and was well ahead of the extremely large pack of walkers.

The weather was beautiful and there is always such a great spirit of community at this event.  They announced over the mic, before the event began, that there was a record-breaking turnout this year of over 1400 participants!  They also mentioned that in the event's 11 years running it has raised over $500,000 to aid in treating and finding a cure for cancer.  What an amazing thing to be involved in!

It really hits you how many people are affected by this disease when you look around at how many people at the event are wearing the cancer survivor shirt (different color).  It was especially poignant when I saw a young boy, probably around Jabberjaw's age, wearing the survivor color.  Many of those who are wearing the regular color have papers pinned to their shirts stating who they are walking either "In honor of..." or "In memory of..." 

 I didn't write any names on a paper, but I, too, had people on my mind as I walked/ran.  I have several friends who have been battling cancer this year or in recent years.  I was grateful, as I walked in their honor, that they are all doing well in their battle against cancer.  After everything each one of them has been through, walking a 5k seemed very small by comparison.  I thought about how grateful I am to be healthy and able to walk and run.  I was honored to spend my Independence Day trying to get the world one step closer to being Cancer Free!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Movie Review-- Disney Pixar's Cars 2

I'll just start off by saying that I didn't love it as much as my 10-year-old son did.  Compared to a lot of the mind-numbing, drool-inducing, waste-of-time movies marketed toward kids, that Hollywood puts out these days, it was very good.  Compared to other Pixar movies... not my fave.

I have to say I was a little disappointed.  The look of the movie was fantastic.  The story, on the other hand, was lacking.  The computer graphics were amazing, the animation superb.  Nothing less than you would expect from the Pixar Studios.  They did a great job with making a whole imaginary "World of Cars" with 'car-ified' characters traveling to exotic 'car-ified' locales.  Where I think the makers of the movie 'took a wrong turn' was in trying to make it more exciting, they lost sight of what was so endearing about the first movie.  The focus was much more on eye-popping action and less on the characters we have come to love and cherish over the years.

My son really enjoyed all of the 'spy action' including lots of shooting and explosions.  What was that?  Shooting and explosions?!  Are we talking about a Disney/Pixar movie or Die Hard?  To say that the movie was as far from Radiator Springs as you can get would be an understatement.  It really felt like it was tailored more toward adults than kids.  The story set-up was much too deep for kids under about the age of seven to understand and during the times when there wasn't a lot of action going on, the story often dragged.  Some of the violence seemed inappropriate for children and I personally felt that what Cars 2 had in action, it lacked in humor.  I only remember laughing out loud less than a handful of times.  I seem to remember most other Pixar movies having a lot more comedy.

I did enjoy that the Pixar group stayed true-to-form with a plethora of inside jokes (little things tucked into the scenery and wording) that only the adults would get, but I was sorry to see that they stepped too 'far off the beaten path' as far as the original characters were concerned.  Unlike the extremely popular Toy Story series, Cars 2 did not give us enough screen time with the original cast of characters from the first installment.  While both Toy Story 2 & 3 brought on new characters, they also made sure to keep the original characters center stage.  While it's true that it would be impossible to bring Doc Hudson back without the late, great Paul Newman, he was not the only interesting character, besides Lightening McQueen and Mater, in the first Cars movie. What kept us coming back for more with the Toy Story series just wasn't there in Cars 2.  I doubt seriously that the Toy Story sequels would have been quite as popular if they had only featured Woody and Buzz.

This latest offering from the folks at Disney/Pixar would have been more appropriately marketed as a Mater movie.  Basically it was 'The Mater Show' and really wasn't worthy of being labeled as a Cars movie. We saw very little of any of the original characters, other than Mater and Lightening McQueen, and what we did see of Lightening McQueen, I found extremely disappointing.  Whether it was due to writing, directing, or acting, or a combination of all three, Owen Wilson's character-voicing of the beloved race car was sullen, bland, and flat-out depressing.  His lines were uninteresting and delivered that way. Even his trademark "Ka-chow!" sounded like he just couldn't be bothered.

If you haven't been out to the theater yet to see it, save your money and wait for the DVD.  As a Pixar fan, I feel it's still worthy of adding to my DVD collection but it will never be one that I sit down to watch anytime my son puts it on.  It doesn't matter how many times I've seen "A Bug's Life", "Monsters, Inc.", or "Finding Nemo", I never tire of them.  Those, along with the original "Cars" and the "Toy Story" series, are classics that I find myself getting sucked into every time we watch them.  "Cars 2" will end up being like so many other kid movies my son watches: mindless noise droning on in the background while I go about my day.  In other words... 'nothing special'.